Finn Harps 3 Cork City 4
CORK City were stunned by conceding a goal inside the first 90 seconds but they recovered to secure a vital away win over a battling Finn Harps in a thrilling game in Ballybofey last night.
Harps had the better of things in the first half and led twice, but John Caulfield’s side dug in and two fine strikes from Gearoid Morrissey along with goals from Conor McCarthy and Graham Cummins put them 4-2 ahead before a Raffaele Cretaro strike ten minutes from time set up an exciting finish.
In the end, City emerged as deserving winners with this second away win in the north-west, having beaten Sligo recently, but they certainly had a few scares.
City made two changes from the side that drew with Derry City as Colm Horgan came in for Sean McLaughlin in defence while teenager Dan Smith began in attack with Liam Nash dropping down to the bench.
Harps made six changes from the side that lost to Shamrock Rovers, with Australian Harry Ascroft making his home debut while last season’s first choice goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher made his first appearance of the new campaign.
Harps got off to a dream start as Caolan McAleer surged through a surprisingly open Cork defence and confidently placed the ball past the advancing Mark McNulty with less than two minutes on the clock.
McNulty then had to go full stretch to stop a stinging Mark Coyle shot before City drew level on 15 minutes as Harps failed to clear a corner and Conor McCarthy rose to head relatively unchallenged past Gallagher.
But Harps continued to give as good as they got with McNulty the busier of the two netminders.
The Donegal side then restored their lead on 36 minutes as Mark Coyle headed home a McAleer cross just moments after a Sean Boyd shot was blocked following a fine passage of play.
But City equalised on the stroke of half-time as Harps lost possession and Gearoid Morrissey capitalised with a superb dipping shot from outside the box.
City began the second half on a positive note with a flurry of corners and Conor McCarthy and Dan Casey both should have done better with close-range headers.
The Leesiders deservedly took the lead on 57 minutes as Morrissey got the better of Raffaele Cretaro and having strode forward let fly with a swerving effort from outside the box that left Gallagher with no chance.
Harps had a real let-off five minutes later when a wayward Keith Cowan header fell into the path of Karl Sheppard but Gallagher reacted in time to thwart the City striker.
On 70 minutes substitute Graham Cummins headed in a Griffin corner as the visitors looked to be home and dry at 4-2.
Cretaro had a decent curling effort not far wide at the other end and McAleer saw a free whizz just outside the post for the promoted side.
In between, City had a Dan Casey goal disallowed for offside shortly afterwards in what was a refreshingly open contest.
Veteran Cretaro then struck with a super drive from inside the box on 80 minutes to reduce the arrears to 4-3.
It was thrill-a-minute stuff in the closing stages.
Despite the fact that this was their sixth game in 22 days, Harps never stopped battling. However, City held on for the win.
HARPS: Gallagher; Borg, Cowan, Todd; Deasy (McNamee, 73 mins), Ascroft, Cretaro, Coyle, O’Reilly; McAleer, Boyd (Boyle, 63 mins).
CITY: McNulty; Horgan, Casey, McCarthy, Griffin; Morrissey, Buckley, McCormack; O’Connor (Rainsford, 79 mins), Sheppard (Comerford, 90 mins), Smith (Cummins, half-time).
Referee: Mr. Damien McGrath (Dublin).